When my father was getting up in age he had a couple of nasty falls, once breaking a rib and once banging his head pretty badly. My father became forgetful. An MRI revealed that there was damage to his brain. The doctors speculated that it was most likely a result of a fall.
As people age they lose strength and with that gait speed and that results in a loss of balance. With the loss of strength they lose the ability to recover from a stumble. Falls inevitably occur, and those that do fall who are frail are more likely to suffer injuries as result of that fall.
Falling is the 14th leading cause of death among the elderly.
Each year, more than one-third of Americans over 65 sustain falls, total cost of fall injuries for people 65 and older was $20.2 billion in 1994, and that is expected to reach $32.4 billion by 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As people age they lose as much as half of their fast-twitch muscle fibers. These fibers control quick movements and responsible for most of our strength. That decline can be reversed with high intensity weight training.
There is plenty of documentation out there making the case for strength training for the elderly. One study conducted with 90 year olds, High-intensity strength training in nonagenarians. Effects on skeletal muscleproduced the following result:
Strength gains averaged 174% +/- 31% (mean +/- SEM)… Mean tandem gait speed improved 48% after training. We conclude that high-resistance weight training leads to significant gains in muscle strength, size, and functional mobility among frail residents of nursing homes up to 96 years of age
Of all the people who stand to gain by strength training the elderly stand to benefit most. It is important not only for the increased quality of life strength can bring but to avoid the consequences of weakness – falls, injuries, sickness, and death. These strength increases don’t require hours in the gym; do just enough to cause a change, then come back and do it again in a week.